His Biz Is Shunned, She Resigned, and Everyone Is Being Sued: What Became of Trump’s Election Dead-Enders
A month after the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, Donald Trump is living comfortably at his private club in Florida. He’s been gearing up for his latest impeachment trial, he’s been deprived of many of his toys and privileges that came with the presidency, and he’s suffering from boredom. But he’s also been basking in the comfort of knowing that the Republican Party will—even today—continue to bend over backwards to please him.
But some of his most hardcore associates and advisers, who egged Trump on and helped fuel his most dangerous or destructive attempts to subvert American democracy, aren’t doing so well. In the three months since the election was called for Joe Biden, most of the lawyers and MAGA enthusiasts who decided to play a consequential role in the ex-president’s efforts to overturn the Democratic nominee’s 2020 win (efforts that led directly to the Jan. 6 mob violence), have had their jobs or businesses shredded, their personal lives shaken, or their reputations irrevocably tarnished—all while Trump’s been relaxing and playing his rounds of golf in the Sunshine State.
The ones who helped spearhead the most extreme chapters in the broader crusade to nullify the election outcome are now besieged by their own legal battles. Several of them have complained that friends aren’t talking to them anymore, or have huffed and fumed over Twitter banning them for life for spreading dangerous misinformation. Several of the Trump-allied attorneys are just trying to hold onto their law licenses, under calls for disbarment for their participation on the Team Trump efforts. Only two of these people responded to requests for comment on this story.
Much of their current ruin came as a direct result of their decisions to become major players in Trump’s failed authoritarian endeavor to cling to power. All of them have refused to admit that Trump, in fact, lost fair and square. Of this band of MAGA allies (which most prominently included people like Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, Jenna Ellis, Cleta Mitchell, John Eastman, and Peter Navarro), arguably none of them has lost more in the time since the election than Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and personal friend of the ex-president’s.
When Trump was in power, Lindell served as Trump 2020’s Minnesota co-chair and as a big financial backer of several efforts to overturn Biden’s win. He was welcomed by Trump into the Oval Office in the very last days of the term to brief the then-leader of the free world on a stack of documents purporting to show evidence that China and other foreign nations somehow tipped the election to Biden. (One of the papers in that packet included a suggestion for declaring martial law to bar the Democratic president-elect from office.)
Today, as many of his former compatriots have already given up the fight, Lindell has continued to be the truest of believers in the cause, refusing to move on despite losing business left and right. Last week, Lindell texted The Daily Beast that Mattress Firm, which he described as a “big bedding company… if not the biggest,” had “quit selling MyPillow, too,” following a trend of companies swearing off the pillow mogul’s products after his post-election activity. Last month, the MyPillow creator said he’d already gotten phone calls or notices from Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair, and Kohl’s that they’d decided to ditch his product line and halt their business relationship with the MAGA super-fan’s company.
This month, Lindell and his pillow company also suffered a similar fate to the 45th president of the United States: Twitter had taken action against their accounts for spreading pro-Trump conspiracy theories baselessly claiming a rigged election. “They took down MyPillow’s Twitter now! Attacks keep coming,” Lindell lamented to The Daily Beast.
Lindell is still facing a possible lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the election tech company that has sent warnings to various people in the Trump orbit and in conservative media, demanding retractions and public apologies for making widespread allegations that Dominion helped steal the 2020 election. Other Trump stalwarts who’ve been sent demand letters have backed off, immediately gone quiet, or sheepishly issued on-air correctives.
But not Lindell.
Instead, the pillow entrepreneur claims to have gone into hiding, surrounding himself with ex-Special Forces soldiers. On Friday, Lindell released “Absolute Proof,” a three-hour video premiering on the Trump-aligned One America News Network that he claims will prove the election was stolen from Trump. Lindell cast the video’s release in apocalyptic terms, claiming on a North Dakota radio show shortly before the Friday release that the “end times” await if his video doesn’t catch on with “all the marbles on the line,” and that “I’m serious, this is biblical. This is Revelations. This is Mark of the Beast stuff. This is that vaccine and all that garbage.”
Down in Georgia, Lin Wood isn’t doing that much better. During the tumultuous Trump-Biden presidential transition, Lindell financially supported Wood’s legal work as he made a name for himself with his especially groundless, violence-endorsing assertions about the election. The then-president would repeatedly phone Wood in late 2020 to get updates on his latest moves in Georgia. But Wood’s operation, working in tandem with Powell, caused rampant anxiety among conservatives on Capitol Hill, inside the Trump administration, and in the campaign. Many Republican operatives and lawmakers still, in part, blame Wood for helping to blow the GOP’s chances in this year’s Georgia runoff, costing the party control of the U.S. Senate at the dawn of the Biden era.
But in the time since he seemingly struck up a rapport with Trump, the now-former president has privately bad-mouthed Wood as a crank to close associates, according to two people who’ve heard Trump’s criticisms. Today, Wood’s Twitter account, too, has been taken away from him, and it’s not clear whether Wood will even get to remain a lawyer for much longer.
Nick Sandmann, the former Covington Catholic student whose lawsuits against media outlets had turned Wood into a star with Trump supporters, dropped Wood as his attorney. Wood recently doxxed his own son, publishing his estranged adult son’s email address online and urging his fans to contact him about the “persecution” the elder Wood faced. The Georgia state bar wants Wood to undergo a mental evaluation if he’s going to retain his license to practice law, according to Wood’s posts on social networking app Telegram, and a private lawyers club in Atlanta warned Wood he could face expulsion if he doesn’t resign his membership. Now Wood, one of the most outspoken promoters of the claim that Democrats committed voter fraud in 2020, is reportedly under investigation himself for voting in Georgia after sending an email that suggested he has another residency in South Carolina.
Among this Trumpian collective of would-be election-destroyers, Wood isn’t even the only one whose license to practice law is now under attack or scrutiny.
Powell, Wood’s partner-in-mischief, was slammed last month by Detroit officials who said they want her stripped of her Michigan law license. “This lawsuit, and the lawsuits filed in the other states, are not just damaging to our democratic experiment, they are also deeply corrosive to the judicial process itself,” attorneys for the Motor City wrote to U.S. District Judge Linda Parker.
Following the Jan. 6 riot in Washington—the day Giuliani spoke at the D.C. rally and called for “trial by combat”—the New York State Bar Association moved to expel the once-celebrated New York City mayor, and laid some of the blame for the mob violence at his door. Giuliani, who was the ringleader of Trump’s official election-challenging legal “strike force,” decried the move as a “political act.”
Around the same time, Brad Hoylman, the Democratic chairman of the New York state Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a formal request to have Trump’s personal lawyer’s license to practice law revoked due to his “participation and role in fomenting a violent insurrectionist attack.”
And like so many in the former president’s good graces who promulgated the pro-Trump lies about the 2020 election, Powell and Giuliani are facing aggressive legal threats from voting tech companies. On Thursday, Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion suit against several Fox stars, Giuliani, and Powell. “We have no choice,” Antonio Mugica, Smartmatic’s founder, told CNN. “The disinformation campaign that was launched against us is an obliterating one. For us, this is existential, and we have to take action.”
But after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, Giuliani at least continued to have the ear of his client, still the Republican Party’s most popular figure, by far. According to two people familiar with the matter, Giuliani kept informally advising Trump on impeachment-trial strategy, even after it was made clear to the attorney that he wouldn’t be officially serving on the ex-president’s new legal defense for the February Senate proceedings.
Other lawyers who worked for Trump during the disastrous presidential transition weren’t so lucky, having been used and discarded by the former president’s political operation, and today left without their other jobs.
Early last month, The Washington Post first revealed that Cleta Mitchell was intimately involved with Trump’s scandalous pressure campaign to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. She had, mostly under the radar, risen to become Team Trump’s point person in the state, and was on the now-infamous conference call between the Republican president and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Over many years, Mitchell had earned a reputation as one of the conservative legal universe’s heaviest hitters, and a top-tier campaign finance attorney for right-leaning activists and political candidates. She was a true star in the field. But when her involvement in Trump’s efforts were revealed in January, her high-powered law firm, Foley & Lardner LLP, released a statement claiming it was unaware of the extent of Mitchell’s pro-Trump activity, and said the firm was “concerned” and probing the matter. Shortly thereafter, Mitchell was out of the job.
In December, John Eastman represented Trump before the U.S. Supreme Court when few others—even longtime Trump attorneys—would do so. On the then-president’s behalf, Eastman—a Chapman University law professor who became an outrage-magnet during the 2020 election for openly questioning Sen. Kamala Harris’s citizenship and therefore eligibility to serve as Biden’s running mate—asked the Supreme Court to allow Trump to intervene in a Texas suit that sought to cancel Biden’s victory in four key states.
This legal maneuver, predictably, went nowhere fast. For his time and service, Eastman was rewarded by Trump by having his name floated as a possible member of his legal team for the second Senate trial. Eastman also got a prime speaking slot at the D.C. rally that preceded the bloody riot on Capitol Hill. However, Eastman and Giuliani were soon barred from working on the team, with several top Trump advisers fearing the pair wasn’t serious enough and that they carried too much riot-related baggage with them.
The week after the rioting, Eastman was forced to resign from Chapman, following mounting pressure on the university’s leadership. The separation was acrimonious enough that both Eastman and the university had to pledge not to sue one another. “Chapman and Dr. Eastman have agreed not to engage in legal actions of any kind, including any claim of defamation that may currently exist, as both parties move forward,” Chapman president Daniele Struppa said in a statement at the time.
As for the rest, Jenna Ellis, one of the most gung-ho of Trump’s senior legal advisers, is no longer representing the former president. Starting in early December, she and other Trumpist lawyers suffered a sharp plunge in the frequency of appearances on Fox News and Fox Business, following legal threats made by the voting-tech companies. But at least she still has her job as special counsel for the socially conservative Thomas More Society, and hasn’t lost her Twitter account of nearly 800,000 followers. Nowadays, she can be found tweeting her continued support of the former president, broadsides against the Biden administration, and her thoughts on issues such as why conservative women are definitely “hotter.”
Peter Navarro, President Trump’s top trade adviser in the White House who spent Trump’s final weeks in office compiling and promoting documents that falsely portrayed massive election fraud, is still trying to talk to his former boss—through the TV, at least. On Friday, Navarro appeared on Newsmax TV to urge Trump to once again upturn his legal team. “You get somebody like Matt Gaetz as your lead attorney instead of that stiff [Bruce Castor] you had on,” Navarro recommended… before touting his own research. “Then you use the ‘Navarro Report’ and other reports that have been put out as your exhibits A, B, C, and D.”
With the Trump presidency in his rearview mirror, multiple close associates of Navarro say they aren’t sure what his next career move will be, as he’s so inextricably tied himself to his onetime boss.
As for Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, he never got his reinstatement or re-elevation in the Trump administration that he and the ex-president had once so desired. In late November, he did, however, finally get his pardon from Trump for his role in the Robert Mueller saga. But in return, Flynn failed to deliver on the authoritarian push to keep Biden out of power, and (thankfully) didn’t have enough powerful takers for his pitch for Trump to proclaim martial law or use the U.S. military to “re-run” the election in electorally crucial states. With his professional reputation in Washington and elsewhere dramatically diminished, he now has to settle for being a folk hero to QAnon kooks.
Down in Palm Beach, Florida, where the twice-impeached 45th president of the United States is prepping with his team for the Senate trial, he’s sometimes letting his boredom with retirement show, even as he tries to project a state of contentment to the public and to his aides. Late last week, Trump’s lawyers and advisers rejected an invitation from House impeachment managers for the former commander in chief to testify. “The president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding,” senior Trump adviser Jason Miller flatly told The Daily Beast.
When Trump hasn’t been focusing on his upcoming trial, he’s been golfing. He’s still binging his right-wing media and cable-TV favorites, though even there he’s starting to lose close friends due to the election aftermath. On Friday, the staunchly Trumpy Fox Business announced it had canceled the show of its star, Lou Dobbs, a fervent supporter of the former president who for years also doubled as a key informal adviser to Trump. (Dobbs had been mentioned in Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion lawsuit the day prior.) After the news broke, Trump voiced his support for Dobbs in an official statement, but by Saturday, Dobbs was keeping mostly tight-lipped about the ouster, texting The Daily Beast, “Sorry. No comment at this time.”
When Trump is not watching television or monitoring line-up developments, he still hasn’t bothered devoting an ounce of introspection on the massive body counts and the ravaged nation he left for others to clean up. “He doesn’t have regrets about it, none that I’ve heard,” said one Trump confidant. He’s been scribbling down potential disses and harangues at his political foes, insults that he now cannot tweet himself to the broader public. He’s dictated petulant remarks sent to the Hollywood elites at the Screen Actors Guild who don’t want him anymore.
In recent days, Trump has been phoning close associates regularly about the next impeachment trial—as well as to gossip about Biden, media, the future, and other members of the GOP. His office has also been messaging friends and high-profile allies on his behalf, inviting them to visit him at Mar-a-Lago, according to two knowledgeable sources and written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Some individuals close to the ex-president say he’s started getting lonely and bored with his existence out of power, and misses being constantly surrounded by powerful sycophants and being the center of attention for the news media, U.S. politicos, and leaders abroad. But the ex-president is still living in luxury, and has been recently very confident about his continued standing and influence in the Republican Party and conservative movement.
And he’s not the only veteran of the sprawling, anti-democratic effort to be sitting pretty in early 2021.
Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne became one of the strangest characters of the last days of the Trump administration, visiting the White House in December, dressed in jeans and a hoodie, scarfing down meatballs, and bickering with Trump’s legal team and administration officials, as he, Flynn, and Powell together pitched the then-president on their democracy-thwarting schemes. But now, with Trump’s dream of overturning the 2020 election in tatters, Byrne appears to be doing comparatively okay—and is blaming just about everyone else for President Biden’s win, turning his blog into the digital burn book of the Trump post-campaign. “Almost every evening, and many early afternoons, Rudy was shit-faced,” Byrne blogged recently. “That, and his podcasts, were the only guarantees in Rudy’s life.” (Byrne declined to comment on this story, saying he wanted to finish his blog series first.)
However thoroughly Byrne was dragging Giuliani and others for their alleged behavior, the Trump attorney didn’t seem to care too much. Asked on Saturday what he thought about Byrne bashing him, Giuliani simply replied to The Daily Beast, “So have you,” without further explaining how this news outlet had “trashed” him lately.